Small Business Insurance Required By Law

As a business owner, you’re probably facing dozens of critical decisions every day. The right insurance may be one of them.

State laws can mandate certain types of business insurance to protect you, your company and your workers. Most states require businesses that have employees, regardless of their activities, to have:

  • Workers compensations insurance
  • Unemployment insurance

In addition to the above, it’s important to know that other types of business insurance may be required by your state. For example, some mandate disability insurance, and some require insurance for specific types of business operations, such as those offering legal or medical services, or serving alcohol.

To be sure you comply with your state’s mandatory small business insurance requirements, check with your state’s department of insurance.

Types of Small Business Insurance Required by Law

The laws in your state might require you to carry these types of small business insurance.

  • Workers compensation insurance. This pays for medical care and ongoing treatments for employees who are sick or injured because of their jobs. It includes compensation for lost wages. It generally also provides final expense and survivor benefits for a worker’s family if the employee passes away because of a job-related sickness or injury. In most states, businesses are required by law to provide workers compensation insurance for their employees.
  • Disability insurance. This pays employees a portion of their wages if they are unable to work because of an injury or sickness that isn’t related to the job. The following states require businesses to buy disability insurance: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.
  • Unemployment insurance. This coverage offers financial benefits to eligible workers. Each state administers its own unemployment insurance program but follows the same guidelines put forth by federal law. Businesses pay for unemployment insurance with money paid through payroll taxes.
  • Professional liability insurance. Also called errors and omissions insurance, this  pays for the costs that come from errors you make in your profession or job. For example, state law may require doctors, lawyers and real estate agents to purchase professional liability insurance.
  • Commercial auto insurance. This provides insurance coverage for the vehicles you use for your business. Commercial auto insurance on business vehicles is important because a personal auto insurance policy won’t cover vehicles you use for business purposes.
  • Liquor liability insurance. This offers coverage for the bodily injury or property damage claims that an intoxicated person causes after being served alcohol by a business. Liquor liability insurance also can cover legal costs, settlements and judgments if your business is sued. In most states, this insurance is required for businesses selling or serving alcohol.

States Where Professional Liability Insurance Is Required

  • Idaho and Oregon require lawyers to have professional liability insurance.
  • Seven states require doctors to have professional liability insurance: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
  • Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Texas are among the states that require professional liability insurance for realtors.

Other Types of Small Business Insurance

There are several other types of insurance you’ll want to consider for your small business, even when they’re not required by law:

  • General liability insurance covers a business if there are claims of property damage or bodily injury from clients and customers. Without it, you are responsible for paying for the resulting damage and medical expenses yourself. General liability insurance also provides a financial safety net, as it can help pay for legal fees, settlements and judgments if you’re sued.
  • Commercial property insurance pays for damages to your business property. It covers things such as your office building, equipment, computers, furniture, inventory, fences and signs.
  • Product liability insurance offers coverage if a product doesn’t work correctly and causes harm to a client or customer.
  • Cyber liability insurance can cover costs if your computer system is hacked and you lose data. Cyber liability insurance also protects a business from other expenses related to a data breach. For instance it can pay for legal fees, customer alerts about a breach and settlements.
  • Business interruption insurance is a way to replace lost business income if your business is temporarily unable to be open because of a problem covered by your business interruption insurance policy—for example, damage from a fire or vandalism.
  • A business owners policy (BOP) combines general liability insurance, business interruption insurance and commercial property insurance into one policy. Buying a business owners policy is often cheaper than buying separate policies.

What Factors Influence Business Insurance Rates?

Key factors that impact how much you’ll pay for small business insurance include:

  • Your profession. The risk of filing a claim isn’t the same for all businesses. Business owners in high-risk fields generally pay more for insurance than those in low-risk professions. For example, an accounting firm may have a lower rate than a contracting business.
  • Number of employees. The more employees you have, the greater the cost of workers compensation insurance.
  • Insurance coverage needs. The coverage limits you choose will influence the cost of your insurance.
  • Prior claims history. An insurer will consider your prior business insurance claims history.

Other factors taken into consideration by small business insurers are the type of business assets, the business property owned, your location and the size of the payroll.

5 Steps to Buying Small Business Insurance

Here are five steps for purchasing small business insurance.

Research insurance coverage. Research the types of small business coverage, so you can match your operations to the right type of coverage. You’ll need the coverage mandated under your state laws, but also should consider general liability and other types that will protect your investment.

Evaluate business risks. Think about the kinds of risks facing your business. Do you have a business in an area where wildfires, floods or hurricanes happen? What kinds of accidents could happen at your business? You’ll want to select insurance that matches the risks of your business.

Shop around. To get the best deal you’ll need to shop around. Compare quotes from multiple insurers before choosing an insurance company.

Review a company’s complaint record. 

Review your insurance policy annually. A lot can happen in a year, so review your policy to be sure it still matches your needs. Here are some of the reasons you may need different business insurance:

  • You relocate the business
  • You buy new business equipment
  • You are offering new products
  • Your business income increases or decreases by a large amount

Ways to Save Money on Business Insurance

Here are some tips on how to trim costs on different types of small business coverage:

Pay your entire premium annually. Your insurance company may give you a discount for choosing to pay your professional liability bill all at once rather than monthly. This strategy can be applied to other types of small business insurance as well.

Implement a safety program. This could save you money on workers compensation insurance. Document all regular training sessions of your staff. Make sure employees sign off on the reading of safety materials. And make sure your insurance company knows about the program.

Classify workers correctly. Making sure you have detailed, accurate job descriptions for your employees, and ensure that they don’t do work outside of their classification. These efforts can save money on workers compensation insurance. An insurance agent familiar with workers compensation can help you choose the right classifications.

Join a trade or industry association. You can save money on workers comp insurance by getting a group rate. If you join a trade association with at least 300 members with several that share the same risk as your business, you could qualify for a discounted group rate.

Increase your auto insurance deductible. You can save money on commercial auto insurance by increasing your deductible. A deductible is the amount deducted from an insurance claims check. With a higher deductible, you’ll pay less for insurance but have a higher amount deducted if you make a claim, so be sure you can cover the difference.

Bundle business insurance. Bundling policies, for instance by buying a BOP with general liability insurance, business interruption insurance and commercial property insurance, is a good way to save money because it is often more expensive to buy the policies separately.

What’s Not Covered by Business Insurance?

What isn’t covered by small business insurance? Here are some typical exclusions:

  • Earthquakes (you can buy a separate earthquake insurance policy)
  • Floods (you can buy a separate flood insurance policy)
  • Infectious diseases
  • War
  • Radioactive fallouts
  • Government seizures
  • Intentional and fraudulent acts
  • Your business vehicles, unless covered with a commercial policy (general liability insurance does not cover car accidents).

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